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First drive: BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Plus Touring. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Plus Touring
The eco-champ of the revised 3 Series range - and it's a bit dull.

 



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BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Plus Touring

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Trimming power and ramping up the refinement, the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Plus is an ever greener version of the already fuel efficient 190hp 320d. It's well resolved all round but at no point will it engage its driver in the manner a BMW probably should.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Plus Touring
Pricing: 3 Series from 24,975; EfficientDynamics Plus from 30,485, car as tested 40,780
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: eight-speed Steptronic automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 104g/km (VED Band B, 0 first year, 20 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 70.6mpg
Top speed: 138mph
0-62mph: 8.1 seconds
Power: 163hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

What's this?

BMW's facelifted 3 Series, but don't strain your eyes trying to spot the changes - you'll be here all day, because Munich, by its own admission, decided not to enact radical, sweeping alterations to a car that looked fine as it was. Thus, the 2015MY Threes have some revised light clusters front and rear, very moderate bumper reshaping and a smattering of new colours, while the interior also benefits from modest changes to trim, upholstery colours and equipment. Nice comfy seats, though.

BMW has also taken the opportunity to update and upgrade the engines, with more six-cylinder units biting the dust in favour of rebadged four-pots, and even a three-cylinder unit in the 318i. For instance, the 330i is not actually a straight-six any more - it's the artist formerly known as the 328i, given a modest 7hp power hike to 252hp and now called the 330i.

Nevertheless, as BMW is now getting deeply impressive power and torque out of the four-cylinder engines, it's not the worst news in the world. And to capitalise on this, there's an EfficientDynamics Plus version of the 320d, which is even easier on the fuel. Available as a saloon or Touring estate, with both coming in standard six-speed manual or optional eight-speed automatic guises, the EfficientDynamics Plus has the same 400Nm as the 320d but is detuned from that car's 190hp to 163hp.

This, coupled to some tweaks like low-rolling resistance tyres on 16-inch alloys (they look very small), longer gearing, part blanked-off kidney grilles and a lower ride height, mean that the saloon auto (the autos are cleaner than their manual counterparts) just squeezes its mildly-revised backside into the free VED Band A, the car emitting 99g/km CO2. The auto Touring isn't too far behind at 104g/km and combined economy of 70.6mpg; the manual, for 1,550 less cash, returns 107g/km and 68.9mpg, the former figure not being enough to shunt the 320d EfficientDynamics Plus wagon out of Band B (0 year one VED, 20 annually thereafter).

This is all well and good, and designed to please business users and particularly frugal private buyers, but such parsimony does not come cheap. At more than 30,000 basic, 'our' EfficientDynamics Plus tested here was optioned up to a faintly scandalous 40,780. When you consider the range-topping, 313hp/630Nm 335d M Sport Touring starts at around 41,000 and already comes with the (costly for the 320d) Sport auto transmission, leather, xDrive and more as standard, this seems like an exercise in self-defeat by BMW.

So our advice is: be careful with the options on your EfficientDynamics Plus, otherwise what minor fuel/tax savings you'll make running one for a few years will be quickly wiped out by a price tag that will rival that of an entry-level Porsche Cayman. At least the EfficientDynamics Plus gets leather trim and heated front seats, plus the Business navigation that has been rolled out range-wide, to make it more appealing to owners.

How does it drive?

Comfortably, competently... and, strangely for a BMW, in a rather dull fashion. There's nothing here that marks the 3 Series out against its traditional rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, while it's arguably not as much fun to steer as the Jaguar XE with the 163hp Ingenium four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. Yes, it's very refined, the ride being exquisitely supple on those diddy 16s with their plump rubber, and the engine is lovely and smooth and - crucially - quiet, thanks to recent updates from Munich. It also doesn't give away much to the 190hp 320d on the road, certainly not in a way that is remotely tangible without timing gear. It feels as linear and acceptably brisk, if not actually ever fast, as the 'full-fat' version.

The problem is that it's simply never involving and while it's an easy defence for BMW to say 'well, the target market will never drive an EfficientDynamics Plus hard', the problem for us is that historically, Munich's entry-level cars - no matter their lowly power outputs nor paucity of equipment - always felt a bit more special to drive than anything else. Even a 316i could put a smile on your face if you were in the right mood and on the right road.

The 320d EfficientDynamics Plus never will. The steering, with variable assistance as another cost option, was inconsistent and lacking feedback, while the chassis has plenty of grip but is understeer-led; no amount of throttle cajoling will cause the BMW to alter its cornering stance. There's more roll in the EfficientDynamics thanks to its softer suspension too, all of which makes it feel like a car that is much happier driving well within its capabilities than pushing up towards the edges of the dynamic envelope. So yes, it's a superb cruiser and therefore perfectly fit for purpose - but then, for example, a Mercedes C 220 d is also a superb cruiser with arguably nicer looks and an even plusher cabin. The BMW, certainly in four-cylinder guise, no longer offers up that hidden back-road blaster character that would make it stand head and shoulders above the competition.

Verdict

A fine and frugal machine, the revised BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Plus Touring is exactly what you'd expect of a business-oriented vehicle designed to please fleet managers first and foremost. It's not exciting and some would say an eco-conscious machine doesn't need to be, but if that blue and white roundel on the bonnet sets certain dynamic expectations in mind, you might be better off avoiding a well-equipped EfficientDynamics Plus. And opting for a more engaging 335d Touring in basic spec instead.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 8 Sep 2015









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2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.

2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.



2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.
 

2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.
 

2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.
 

2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.
 

2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.
 

2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.
 

2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.
 

2016 BMW 3 Series EfficientDynamics Edition Sport Touring. Image by BMW.
 






 

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